Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A tradition we don’t need

Updated 1/30/2012, after original post

I don’t watch any of the morning shows, and I never have, so I don’t miss this tradition and maybe I’m not comprehending something crucial here (but I doubt it).

So, explain to me how writers and publishing professionals telling the Today Show that it must have the Newbery and Caldecott winners on the program doesn’t make us look like the most irritating newbie manuscript submitter. You know the kind, the one whose manuscript is not a good fit for the publisher and who won’t take no for an answer. Is this not slightly embarrassing?

I find this second year of post ALAYMA Today-Show indignation even more irritating than it was last year because it’s threatening to become a tradition.

One of the things I love about the ALA awards is that they  are so much a product of their committees’ hard and very serious work. We call them our Oscars, but they’re really nothing like the Oscars—and thank God for that. Can you imagine the rage in Hollywood if the best picture nominations went like the CSK for illustration this year or the Caldecott last year, with only one honor and one winner? Or better still, if best actor was like the Schneider, where the committee declined to pick a winner for children’s books? And even when I find it personally frustrating in the short term, I love that the Printz and the Newbery are nearly impossible to handicap these days. Meanwhile, the Oscars nominated nine movies for best picture this year, all usual suspects included, and if they could find a way to do more, they would.

The bottom line is the ALA awards have an integrity that is not well served by this sort of pleading.

Update (from my reply to a comment. Thanks to @LaurieThompson for helping me think more on this):
It's one thing for every person in publishing who also watches morning shows to call/email/whatever and say, you should cover this (it's probably pointless to do it immediately after the fact, but leave that aside for now). It's another thing for a significant part of the post-award discourse in our own forums to be dominated by this so-called snub. We're talking about a programming decision that would likely be made well in advance of the awards (like the infamous Snooki booking). A spasm of outrage after the awards is almost certain to be ineffective in its intended purpose and it certainly diminishes the awards in the same stroke. 

If morning show coverage is truly important to the YMAs, then wouldn't it be a better question to ask how is ALA pitching this event as something the Today Show's audience will care about? Maybe there is a great answer to this question (honestly, I hope there is), but so far all I've heard is "it's a tradition," and that is not a pitch. In this PW piece, we get a little insight, but what does the ALA do beyond reach out "to several morning news programs to secure an in-studio placement for the Newbery and Caldecott Medalists"? It would be fascinating to know. 

Of all people, book people should know that mainstream media coverage doesn't come out of a sense of entitlement or because it happened in the past. It also doesn't come without laying the groundwork (and please note, I actually assume that ALA's people are doing this to whatever degree they can). The question to me, then, is how can #todaysupportala people be part of that effort? 

So, lest I be accused of nonconstructive whining about nonconstructive whining, here's what I'd like to see: Macey Morales (@MaceyALA), manager of media relations for ALA, please tell us what you'd like us to do before this happens next year. You've got a social-media army of people who are genuinely irritated about this. Give us our marching orders.